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O.C. cannabis patients appeal city bans

One month after a federal court rejected a lawsuit seeking to prevent the cities of Lake Forest and Costa Mesa from banning medical-marijuana dispensaries, a group of four cannabis patients have taken their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

The group claims the bans violate both their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 5th Amendment’s equal protection clause. A U.S. district judge in April ruled that the disabilities act does not allow cannabis use.

In recent months, Costa Mesa and Lake Forest officials have used local zoning regulations to force dozens of cannabis clubs to shut down.

It’s official:  Oakland pot shortage an ‘emergency’

Saying that cannabis patients’ lives often depend on safe access to their medicine, the Oakland City Council has declared a “local public health emergency” due to a shortage of medical marijuana.

The four-page declaration was essentially a renewal of an emergency resolution passed by the city in 1999 in protest of the U.S. government shutting down the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative. Since the 2,200-member cooperative was the city’s sole licensed medical cannabis provider, council members declared the closure put sick Oakland residents—particularly those living with HIV or AIDS—in serious health jeopardy. The panel has renewed the resolution several times since its original passage.

Also in May, the council voted to make Oakland the first California city to endorse a proposed state ballot initiative that would legalize small amounts of cannabis for recreational use.

San Jose dispensary robbery prompts call for ordinance

A midday takeover robbery of a San Jose medical-marijuana dispensary prompted a group of collective operators to urge the city to quickly draft an ordinance regulating cannabis clubs.

The robbery happened at 12:40 p.m. May 20, when a group of two or three gunmen in masks entered the South Bay CannaMed Patient Association.   They took money from employees and patients and an undetermined amount of cannabis before fleeing.

The next day, a group called the Medical Cannabis Collectives Coalition called on the San Jose City Council to move swiftly on a dispensary ordinance. City officials had already scheduled a June 7 meeting to discuss proposed medical-marijuana club regulations.

A story in the San Jose Mercury News quoted coalition spokesperson Stephen De Angelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center, as saying the May 20 robbery might not have happened had the city’s medical-cannabis industry already been properly regulated.


Colorado legislators pass tough cannabis club rules

Lawmakers in Colorado have passed a bill imposing tough new regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Colorado Department of Revenue estimates the regulations, passed in May, will cause half of the estimated 1,100 dispensaries in the state to close as soon as July, according to a CBS News report. Under the bill, dispensaries will have to pay into a statewide system that will license them to grow and sell marijuana. The bill also requires that all shops be located at least 1,000 feet away from child-care centers or schools.

Many dispensary operators and medical-marijuana advocates have already stepped forward to fight the bill, arguing that it violates their constitutional rights, the report states.

Congress:  Banks must stop denying collectives services

Reacting to reports of banks denying services to medical-marijuana dispensaries, 15 members of Congress have signed a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner calling on him to issue a policy protecting financial institutions that transact business with cannabis clubs.

The letter, authored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) at the urging of the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, warns that denial of financial services to collectives jeopardizes public safety by putting the clubs at greater risk of robbery and theft. Americans for Safe Access has received dozens of reports of banks denying medical-cannabis providers basic services or summarily canceling their accounts, an organization news release stated.

The congressional group wants Geithner to assure financial institutions that the Treasury Department won’t target them for providing basic services to cannabis clubs operating in compliance with state medical-marijuana laws. The letter was co-signed by representatives from Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.


Israel faces medical cannabis shortage

A severe shortage of medical marijuana in Israel is forcing doctors to prescribe the drug only to cancer patients, leaving others to go without.

The number of patients in Israel legally entitled to use medical marijuana has tripled from 1,000 to 3,000 over the past two years, according to a recent report in The Jerusalem Post. With demand outstripping supply, doctors have had to deny prescribing pot to non-cancer patients—such as chronic pain sufferers.

Patients who have been denied their pot are none too happy—some have even physically threatened their doctors after being told the cupboard was bare, according to the report.

Growers have been asked to increase their production, but shortages are expected to continue at least through June.

Canadian pot activist extradited to U.S.

Canadian cannabis advocate Marc Emery has been extradited to the U.S., where he faces a five-year sentence for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet.

Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and founder of multiple pro-marijuana political parties in Canada, became an international cause célèbre when he was arrested in 2005 by Vancouver Police at the urging of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. On May 10, a Canadian justice minister ordered Emery deported to the U.S., where he is expected to plead guilty to one count of marijuana distribution.

Emery’s incarceration in 2005 following his arrest prompted supporters to stage a round-the-clock vigil outside the prison where he was being held. The vigil lasted for 45 days until Emery was released on bail. More than 40 demonstrations were held around the world following Emery’s 2005 arrest. In September 2009, rallies in support of Emery were held in more than 100 cities, including New York, London, Paris, Oslo and Lima.

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